Navy Life Story: Plebe Summer Part I

Me in Quebec. I kept this photo on my corkboard to remind me of the olden times.

After graduating from high school, I had only a fairly short summer to enjoy before I-Day. The highlight was probably a week-long trip to Quebec organized by my former French teacher. During the trip my girlfriend and I made out in a variety of exotic Canadian locations and I mispronounced “poutine.” Then, on June 27th, it was I-Day.

I-Day stands for “Induction Day” and it is the first day at the Academy. I woke up in the morning a civilian, put on a pair of cargo shorts and my favorite Hawaiian shirt, and dad dropped me off in front of Alumni Hall at my designated time. On the way there I made sure to listen to something memorable because we would not be allowed to listen to music for the summer. I forget what song it was. When we arrived at the drop-off point, dad turned to me, shook my hand, and said “worst case, we’ll always take you back.” Thanks dad.

There are some things that happen right off the bat when you walk in for I-Day. I-Day is run by Midshipman, and as you walk in the doors there is a table with a few of them. These guys make sure you’re supposed to be there, hand you a copy of Reef Points, and tell you from then on everything you say will begin and end with “sir” or “ma’am.” They also tell you to tuck in your shirt, which I failed to do and thus that managed to be the very first thing I was yelled at for. I felt sort of special actually because, as a local, I was supposed to get interviewed by the local newspaper. That plan got derailed when, in my confusion and nervousness and embarrassment of a hastily tucked-in Hawaiian shirt I just proceeded up the stairs to begin the first day of the rest of my life.

For the first part of I-Day, you follow a path through Alumni Hall, reporting to various tables and stations. Early on you are told that your basic responses are “Sir yes sir,” “Sir no sir,” “Sir aye aye sir,” “Sir no excuse sir,” and “Sir I’ll find out sir.” Unless asked a question that required some other information, like “what is your name?,” you were to respond with one of those five things. My second major mistake on I-Day after the shirt thing was deciding that, to avoid messing that my basic responses, I would just respond to everything by nodding or shaking my head. That didn’t last long.

As you snake through Alumni Hall, you wonder more and more what you had gotten yourself into. One station was an amnesty booth with a bin where you could dump any contraband you still had on you. I didn’t get a good look into the bin, but I still can’t figure out who would show up on day one with fake IDs or drugs. That seems like a bad idea, right? I also remember hastily signing a wide variety of legal documents. I didn’t have any time to review any of them but the one that stuck out was the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” sheet; not that it mattered much to me but it was the only one I noted.

Not me, but someone in my class. Oh Peg.

It is in Alumni Hall in a temporary barber shop that they give you your military buzzcut. This only annoyed me because I had, just days before, already shaved off the long flowing locks that I had been growing out for over a year. So I walked in with a buzzcut and was flabbergasted to receive an even shorter buzzcut. They don’t joke around; they cut everyone’s hair. You also spend a large chunk of your time in Alumni Hall getting issued your uniforms. This is probably the most important part of I-Day, because ill-fitting underwear or shoes will ruin your whole Plebe Summer experience, not that it is that great to begin with. During this process you change out of your civilian attire and into a set of the Plebe Summer uniform while the rest of your newly-issued underwear and socks and t-shirts goes into a large bag which you then put on a truck.

The best part of I-Day was when they drew your blood and gave you any shots you needed. This was nice because you were allowed to sit there and relax for as long as you needed, and there were cookies. This was all done for medical reasons, but still I thought it was funny that the only relaxing part of I-Day was the bit where they literally sucked the blood out of you. The last part in Alumni Hall was when they taught you how to salute. This was a quick and dirty lesson, but then, having entered Alumni Hall as a civilian, and having been given a haircut, put into your brand-new uniform, issued a copy of Reef Points, and taught to salute, you are loaded onto a bus and driven away.